After float fishing with lobworms for a while, Ronny goes back to his popped up livebait rig. Having taken the wrong option before, he now uses a resistance-free, open bail arm set up on both his rods.
Scarletts Lake is a popular and prolific three-acre water on the Kent/Sussex border. It contains carp to 23lb (10.4kg), tench to 81/2lb (3.8kg), bream to 7lb (3.2kg) and roach, rudd and perch all over 3lb (1.4kg). There is also a small head of grass carp and some big eels.
Most float and leger methods will produce fish. Best baits are bread, maggots, worms, meat and corn. Keepnets and shelf-life boilies are banned, although soft homemade boilies are permitted.
There are 75 swims for pleasure and specimen anglers but clubs can book competitions in advance. Day, evening and season tickets are all available on the bank. Fishing is from 8am until sunset, although season ticket holders may fish from sunrise. For further information phone Ronny Jackson on 01342 850414.
1. A few minutes fishing in the margins with tiny baits and hooks gives Ronny enough small roach livebaits for a day’s perching. He keeps the bucket topped up with fresh, aerated water to ensure his bait will stay lively throughout the day. A cloth over the bucket keeps bait in the shade.
2. Three roach livebaits liphooked on a size 4 Drennan Starpoint can prove irresistible to a big, hungry perch. Mounted like this they appear, to the perch, to be fighting over an item of food – very natural and totally unaware of any predators lurking nearby.
3. Chopping up worms to attract perch is not just a tactic for matchmen fishing on canals. Ronny uses scissors to cut them into small pieces to loosefeed around his float. Keep the feed going in at regular intervals and the scent should eventually bring a few perch into your swim.
2. A small piece of float rubber or elastic band, slipped past the barb, prevents the point being masked.
3. The distance between leger boom and bait must be shorter than the distance between boom and poly ball.
Fish on! Ronny keeps the rod high to stop it from reaching a snag. He uses his finger to apply extra pressure to the spool. Remember to use this rule when you need to have a free running set-up for shy biting fish such as big perch.
Rods at Rigs Reduce Resistance. By keeping rods pointing straight at your bait, line flows more freely.
Slowly Ronny eases his catch towards the waiting net. Too much pressure could result in a delicate hookhold pulling out.
A splendid 2lb 4oz (1kg) perch proves that this was not a Mission Impossible foi Ronny. His gamble of fishing an unfamiliar venue has certainly paid off. Two smalt roach fished just off the bottom was the successful method. Your next task Ronny, if you accept it, is a three-pounder (1.4kg).Ronny Jackson, the owner of Scarletts Lake, gives Ronny some information about the location of its big perch. Two fish over 3lb (1.4kg) had been caught in the weeks before our visit. Ronny positions the bobbin he is using in conjunction with the reel’s baitrunner facility on one rod. On the rear rod rest of the other set-up is the clip that allows him to use an open bail arm – a better system. Ronny carefully plumbs up to find the maximum depth of water in front of the dam – that’s where the perch should be. He is standing on the old concrete outflow sluice, that once took water to the mill – long since destroyed.
A secluded three-acre lake. Scarletts is an old stream-fed mill pond lying at the bottom of a sheltered wooded valley, right on the Kent/Sussex border.
The mill itself has long since gone, but Ronny spends the first 20 minutes catching some small roach livebaits from the remains of the old dam wall. This done, his next job is some serious plumbing up. He reasons that, as with most lakes of this type, the deep water is by the dam.
Ronny has chosen to accept his mission. It’s a tough one with only a few days of the season left – there aren’t that many big perch around, and his two regular perch raters will have received a hammering in he past week. So acting on a tip-off, he finds himself standing on the banks of a fishery he has never set eyes on until now — Scarletts Lake. He must be a gambler.
Methodical work with float and plummet confirms this. He finds a maximum depth of about 2.5m (8ft) by the line of the outflow pipe. “The bottom is quite soft and silty, so I think a bait held up a bit will be my first line of attack,” says Ronny, ready to tackle up.
Ronny sorts his kit out. His rods are lift (3.3m) long Graham Mickips 1lb T.C. Avons. “Nice soft rods with an all-through
Despite what he has been saying about resistance-free set-ups, Ronny decides his off-bottom rig will fish better under slight tension. He tightens up to the lead, puts the reel in baitrunner mode and clips a lightweight plastic bobbin on to the line just behind his Optonic bite alarm.
His Dyson mid-water rig is also baited with a roach and cast into the deep water. Because this rig uses a heavier lead, Ronny can fish it with the bail arm open and the line held in a Ian Nash adjustable clip that is mounted on the rear rod rest, directly below the reel.
With the clip lightly set and the rod pointing directly at the bait, a taking fish feels virtually no resistance at all. Since the line comes freely off the spool, the Optonic must be carefully positioned for bites to register.
Ronny is just explaining that with the bright sunlight on the water, late afternoon is going to give him his best chance of a fish, when there are half a dozen bleeps from one of the Optonics. He leaps to his feet, poised to strike at the rod fitted with the Dyson rig – but nothing happens. action are essential for perch fishing,” he says. “Perch have got very bony sections in their mouths, with fine membrane in between, so you need a forgiving action. It’s very easy to get hooks pulling out with powerful tip-action rods. “Unlike small perch, which would happily pull a marker buoy around all day, big ones don’t like much resistance. That’s why I use these Shimano Baitrunners for this sort of fishing. The coned spools and smooth, even line lay mean really resistance-free runs, especially if you fish with an open bail arm and don’t bother with the free-spool facility.”
Ronny uses 5lb (2.3kg) line straight through to size 4 Drennan Starpoint hooks on each of his two rigs . His first set-up is designed to fish the livebait just off the silty bottom. The other, a rig named after its inventor, Colin Dyson, is for fishing in mid-water. He liphooks a small live roach and casts it out parallel to the dam, just in front of the outflow pipe where his plumbing has shown a slight depression.
Ronny waits a few minutes in case a full blown run develops and then slowly retrieves his bait, hoping a reluctant perch might snatch it in a fit of pique. “This ii most mysterious,” he says, examining hi; bait, “my roach appears to be untouched Perhaps it just got frightened and bolted.’ He recasts a bit farther out.
Bleep!…Bleep!….Bleeeeeeee! There’s a sudden, short, sharp run on Ronny’s off-bottom rig. It stops as quickly as it started. He retrieves his tackle — the bait has gone Ronny isn’t happy. “It hit the bait, felt th« resistance from the baitrunner and before ii could drop it, the drag pulled the bait off the hook. If I’d been using an open bail arm we’d have had a fish on the bank.”
After some initial self-doubt, he becomes quite phlegmatic about the missed opportunity. “At least it proves that there are fish there and they’re feeding,” he says, putting the bobbin away and fitting another Nash line clip to his other rod rest. “I think I’ll keep both bail arms open from now on.”
It’s been roughly three hours since the missed run and Ronny is getting restless. Time to give his worms some exercise. He sets up a Drennan float rod and Mitchell 300 fixed spool reel. He is using 4lb (1.8kg) line straight through to a size 6 Drennan Starpoint. A stopknot, fixed slightly overdepth, keeps the 2AAA peacock wag-gler in the right place, with the bulk shot 50cm (18in) from the huge, snake-like lobworm on the hook.
Half a dozen of the worm’s chums are snipped up with a pair of scissors and thrown in around his float, which is three rod-lengths out. ‘That should get them going. Big perch love worms and there’s always the chance that one of the lake’s big carp may pick up the bait. Or a bream. Or tench. I don’t suppose that’ll count though.” Definitely not. It’s perch or bust.
Despite keeping a regular supply of chopped worms going into his swim, Ronny hasn’t had a touch on the float. He has tried twitching it back, he has tried fishing the worm off the bottom, but all to no avail. He goes back to using two livebait rigs. “I’m not really happy with the Dyson rig,” he decides. “The bright sunshine might keep them down in the water until dusk, so [ think I’ll put on another off-the-bottom :rg.” Ronny scales down the hooklength to 3lb 1.4kg) b.s. and baits up with two 5cm (2in) roach fry. “I think our best chance of a fish will come as we get towards sunset. When there’s less light filtering through the water, the perch’s stripy camouflage becomes more effective, so it’s easier for them to get closer to their prey without being spotted.”
Pleasant though it is sitting in the warm, spring sunshine, there has been no sign of our perch. Ronny is starting to get worried. “I know there are some big perch in here. They’ve no competition from other predators and there are loads of small food fish. They could grow really big. I just hope that today they haven’t all gone up the shallow end to chase the fry. I expect that…”
Ronny is suddenly interrupted by frantic bleeping from one of his Optonics. He picks up the relevant rod, keeping it pointed at the spot where his line enters the water. Coils are being steadily taken off the spool. He engages the bail arm, winds down a couple of turns and strikes smoothly – and meets firm resistance. ‘Yes!” he mutters under his breath in a mixture of relief and excitement, as his rod takes on a nice bend, “I reckon we might have done it. It feels like a good fish.”
The fight is dogged, if unspectacular, and within a few minutes, gills flared and dorsal erect, a fat perch slides over the rim of Ronny’s waiting net. “I think that’ll go two,” says Ronny optimistically, as he removes the hook. He wets his weighing sling, zeroes the scales and slips his capture into the damp folds. “Two pounds, four ounces. Is that good enough?” he enquires, slipping his fish gently back into the water. It certainly is Ronny. Well worth the wait!